Friday, March 29, 2013


WIth almost no reference to Good Friday anywhere visible in the TV listings, I turned to YouTube, and found a complete recording of a concert performance of the Bach St Matthew Passion conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.

I hooked my Macbook up to my hifi & sat entranced for the full two and three quarter hours. The St Matthew is one of the wonders of music, and Herreweghe is a supreme Bach conductor. Watching it all the way through, with only my Gospel text by my side (and not really needing that - it's a very clear performance) was heartrendingly moving. There are moments when a very familiar chorus or aria sweeps in to play, and the context adds layer upon layer of power and emotion.

The tenor aria, Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen, was such a moment for me. Peter has promised to defend Jesus to the end, Jesus has asked the disciples to pray with him, and in a moment he will beg for the cup of suffering to pass. "I would beside my Lord be watching," sings the tenor, the choir commenting that it is our sins that will fall asleep. Not so. We know the story. We feel the bitter irony, and see what is to come.

Then the beauty of the counter tenor aria Erbame Dich  - Have Mercy - an achingly glorious piece of music, but one that comes shot with pain as it reflects on the betrayal Peter pours upon Jesus so lightly before the cock crows. The harshest failure of friendship; the most beautiful music. Stunning.

I let the music do its work. I let my heart be worked on and touched and opened and broken. From the opening invitation to come and see, to the closing invocation of tears of grief, I sat and watched and listened and felt the glory, the wonder, the pain, the sheer magic of this piece and of the Truth it reveals.

Then I dried my eyes and went to church to continue in worship.

A Good Friday.

No comments: